Tiny Desk Contest Winner Heading to Iowa

Sep 30, 2016

In March a singer, songwriter, and fiddler from Duluth, Minnesota won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. Now, Gaelynn Lea is embarking on her first solo tour and bringing her music to Iowa.

Lea’s history with performing started before she could read when she memorized a monologue for a play. Then in the fifth grade, after acing a music listening test, the orchestra teacher worked with her to find a way to play an instrument with her disability. Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly known as ‘Brittle Bone Disease,' Lea’s shortened limbs require her to play the violin up and down like a cello or a bass.

“It was never a matter of whether or not I could do something, it was how we were going to figure it out.” Lea says.

Since 2006, Lea has been regularly performing across much of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I mean it probably helps with performance anyway. If you're never invisible off stage, what is the difference being on stage?

“It sounds kind of weird when you talk about it, but the reality of it is, is that I feel the most awake I ever feel when I perform, the most present," Lea says. "There’s something about the shared energy of an audience and you and the connection of this shared experience that is so powerful. It’s almost spiritual.”

Instead of her disability causing any unwanted anxiety while on stage, Lea sees it as an advantage.

“I mean it probably helps with performance anyway. If you’re never invisible off stage, what is the difference being on stage?”

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbie talks with Lea, who will be performing Sunday, October 2nd at 8:00 p.m. at the Mill in Iowa City. She will also be playing with the Awful Purdies in The Basement of the Des Moines Social Club on Friday, October 7th. That performance will be broadcast live on Iowa Public Radio’s Studio One.